Avoiding the Sting

The solution to the problem at the old house was obvious.  The old electrical service wires coming from the pole at the street would have to be replaced.  The journeyman electrician I was working with asked me to remove the weatherhead on the roof so we could pull the wires out.  A weatherhead is a rounded metal cover mounted on top of the conduit going into the control panel which has the circuit breakers for the house in it.  This metal device has the shape like a swan’s neck for a reason; simply to keep the rain from running down the conduit.  The wires are installed with the removable top off and enter the weatherhead from a downward direction, heading up over the bend and then turn straight downward to enter the house and the panel.

On this particular day, it was my turn to go up the ladder to the roof top and pull off the weatherhead before we could replace the service wire.  As I looked up the ladder toward the cable’s end above me, I thought I saw a small shadow flitting into the plastic wire-guide right beside one of the wires on the downward turned surface.  I didn’t think anything about it.  Standing beside the conduit, I could hear a very slight buzzing coming from the structure.  Again, I didn’t think much of it; probably just a vibration from the mechanical systems in the house.  It was a shock to open the metal cover and, lifting it off, to see, there in my hand and inches away from my face, a paper-like nest just buzzing with yellowjackets! 

Maybe I should take a moment to discuss the options here.  The wasps hadn’t really gotten riled up yet.  Perhaps I should just have replaced the top and asked the electrician I was working with for assistance.  You know, in retrospect, that would have been the wise decision.  We could have gotten the can of wasp spray from the truck and killed them where they sat.  That would have been a complete and final solution.  My problem is that I don’t think clearly while looking at a nest of live wasps which I am holding in my hand.  I did the only thing I could think to do.  I hurled the weatherhead, yellowjackets and all, as far from the house as I could, yelling toward the ground as I did.  “Watch out!  Yellowjackets!”  My boss, thinking quickly, yelled right back, “You’d better move fast!”  I stood where I was on the roof.  “Why do I need to….”  My question was ended in mid-sentence, as I saw the dark shadow coming rapidly toward me from the general area in which I had slung the projectile just seconds before.

I’m pretty sure that no one has ever come down a ladder as quickly as I descended that one.  It would be safe to say that there were a few rungs that my feet never touched.  We stood on the ground helplessly and watched the angry insects buzzing around, searching for their home, which they were sure had been right there just a moment ago.  It was quite awhile before we could get back to work, since they just kept coming back again and again.  Imagine their confusion!  It had been a perfectly solid home; protected from the weather; a great place to nurture their future brood.  All of the sudden they found themselves thrown violently to the ground and when they returned to the place it had stood, there was no sign of it at all.  And, how stupid of me to expect that they would do anything else! 

You see, I thought I had removed the problem, but I just made it worse.  What I needed to do was to find a complete solution, instead of the convenient fix I had arranged on the spot.  The phrase that comes to mind is “they came back, just like a bad penny.”  That’s an interesting adage, when you consider it.  Centuries ago, the penny was a valuable asset and it was not uncommon for them to be counterfeited.  Not having the authorities quite as accessible as we, the solution, if you found yourself in possession of such a coin, was to pass it off on another unsuspecting individual.  Unfortunately, the population concentration was not as dense as in our era, so it was highly likely that the same penny would make its way back into your pocket in short order.  I believed that I had gotten out of the mess I found myself in, only to make the problem even worse.

I would suggest to you that quick fixes are rarely that at all.  In fact, most of the time, they come back to haunt us in much worse ways than the original problem.  Maybe we need to take the time and make the effort to stop and consider the ramifications, before throwing the wasp’s nest down to the ground.  They’ll be buzzing around our ears before we can figure out what happened. 

Things are almost never as bad as imagination makes them out to be, nor is our first inclination the best counselor to whom we can listen.  The next time I’m in such a situation, I’m going to try to take a deep breath, and think, then act.  My guess is that there might be fewer angry yellowjackets (or any other angry pests) to deal with if I’m successful.

Time will tell…

“Of all the liars in the world, sometimes the worst are your own fears.”
(Rudyard Kipling~English poet and novelist~1865-1936)

“Thinking is the greatest torture in the world for most people.”

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